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Book Review: The Promise: A Fly Angler's Long Journey Home By Paul A. Cañada

My favorite stories are the ones that give the author depth and serve as a window of insight into a writer's mind. Within the first few pages, it is important for me to develop a connection with the author, less I will quickly lose interest. I don't mean to sound like some type of literary elitist by any stretch– it's just me being honest. 

Reading the first chapter in Paul Cañada's new book, The Promise, I felt that connection immediately. Paul tells of his childhood growing up in a military family, having a father in the Air Force, and the moves and re-adjustments that had to be made each time his father received new orders to relocate. I did not grow up in a military family, nor did my family move from place to place, but the relationship between Paul and his dad gripped me from the beginning. For me, this laid the groundwork for what was to come. 

As his bio states, Paul Cañada is an award-winning writer and photographer with bylines in dozens of magazines and newspapers. He is known as a fishing and conservation writer. On the outside, The Promise might appear to be a fly fishing book, but just like most great fishing stories are not always about fishing, this book is not just fishing stories. 

Cañada weaves together the narratives of each chapter into a cohesive tapestry of a life well lived. From his early days as a highschool athlete, to his time as a collegiate wrestler, right into his career as a wrestling coach and mentor, Paul gives me the impression of a disciplined and competitive individual. As he tells of his early forays into the natural world, whether it is his introduction and subsequent obsession with birding or bass fishing, Cañada reveals himself as a man with a strong connection to nature. With each chapter, Paul reveals a new dimension of his character, which builds the author's Ethos with the reader. This is a man who speaks from experience, and the kind of writer I want to "listen" to.

Cañada's fishing stories are my kind of fishing stories: he doesn't claim to be an "expert" on anything, but the knowledge imparted on him by years of experience is apparent. The stories are interesting enough as to not seem like something instructional, though he shares some valuable information and advice with the reader, whether he means to or not. The most memorable fishing stories are the ones where the unexpected happens, and this book has its share of spills, injuries and close calls with both rising water and dangerous wildlife: my kind of fishing trip.

Paul has a way of making experiences as normal as traveling or relocating for a career interesting and profound, and he does this without flowery prose or exaggeration. His writing style is matter-of-fact , and bare-bone enough that the reader can get lost in the story and not miss the forest for the trees, to use an old cliché. He does not have to go into long descriptions or use big words to make his stories appealing. The passages speak for themselves. Below is an excerpt from a chapter entitled "Shouldering the Pain," in which the author deals with receiving news of his father's passing:

My drive back to Texas was made difficult by what I had said and done as a teen. Every mean word uttered, every promise broken, fell back on me. My heart was heavy with regret. I know my father forgave me and loved me dearly, but that was little consolation. I believe it was Coco Chanel who said, " guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death."

Somewhere south of Amarillo, I forgave myself. Dad wouldn't want me to suffer like this, I reasoned. A calm fell over me, and I remembered the last line in the Moorhouse story that dad loved so much, "Like a jackass in a hail storm, the tall, West Texas cowboy stubbornly refused to let the blizzard beat him down permanently."

This is of course only one example of the author laying himself bare for the reader, and I couldn't begin to describe the flood of emotion I felt reading that line, having strikingly similar feelings at the news of my own father's death.

Cañada's description of his feelings toward the natural world are equally similar to my own:

I naturally gravitate to streams and rivers, although I'm unsure exactly why. When I stand in a stream, I can see time rushing by and feel its cold, wet touch against my legs. Maybe the answer to why is that I can feel, see and hear something bigger than myself and my troubles.

Paul A. Canada has written a book that is not just for fly anglers. Although the subtitle says A Fly Angler's Long Journey Home, this book is another example of a type of hero's journey, a universal theme of leaving home, experiencing the world with all of its ups and downs, and realizing the person that one has become through those experiences. 

This book has become a treasure to me, and is a valued addition to my library– not only with my collection of sporting titles, but with the books that hold some meaning about life's journey. It will certainly be a book I will re-read many times in years to come. I have placed a link below where you can find this book.

 The Promise: A Fly Angler's Long Journey Home


  1. Thank you for the kind review, Josh! I appreciate it. You're a wonderful writer. ~ Paul Canada


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